Certified Pre-Owned Cars: What You Need to Know

Certified Pre-Owned Cars: What You Need to Know

Posted on Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Is a certified pre-owned vehicle right for you?

“Certified pre-owned cars” can sound like little more than marketing code for “used cars,” but there are some fairly substantial differences between those cars and the cars you’ll find in a standard used car lot. Some of those differences are great advantages, but others can be drawbacks you should know about going in.


The “certified” is hardly just thrown in to sound good. Any car in this class of vehicles is checked over by a mechanic certified by the manufacturer and has to meet a fairly rigorous standard of repair and quality. This also means it’s been inspected, repaired, and is in good condition.

That said, the certification is hardly a guarantee that the car will run better or be trouble-free. Not everything can be spotted in an inspection, after all, and long-term issues might only become clear as the car is used every single day. There’s also a difference between dealer certified and factory certified, with the latter being a more rigorous multi-point inspection and the former being more or less a cursory check. Ask which, exactly, it happens to be, and get a detailed look at what the inspection entails.


Generally, certified pre-owned cars are put under a better warranty by the manufacturer than your standard used car. As they’ve been inspected, the factory generally wants to back up their work and justify the purchase for their customers. That helps mitigate any potential problems for long-term issues that you discover.

That said, there’s a difference between the warranty you get from a factory-inspected car and a dealer-inspected one. The dealer-inspected warranty is likely to be less extensive and far-reaching, and you may have to purchase an extended warranty to get the same protection from a factory-certified vehicle.

Opt for certified pre-owned and get more car for your dollar.


A big upside for many shoppers is the ability to get a luxury car at a nicer price. While a Mercedes-Benz C-Class or Infiniti Q50 might still be more expensive than a late-model car from another manufacturer, it will be substantially cheaper than a new car from the same company. And, in most cases, it’ll be the same quality and in a good state, with a better deal and coverage than you’d get from a standard used car.

Still, from a budget perspective, it may not be worth the money for the brand name. While a luxury car can definitely offer value for the money, if you just need a budget-conscious car in general, it might make more sense from a warranty and pricing perspective to buy a more modest new car right off the assembly line. It’ll be less likely to face repair issues or problems on the road that only driving it can suss out.

Certified pre-owned cars can be an excellent option if you’re looking for a late-model used car held to a higher standard of quality. If you’re interested in replacing your car, they’re always worth considering. But they’re not an ideal choice for everyone, and that should be considered. If you want to start looking for the best cars, pre-owned or new, search new vehicles now.